Having finished my end of year accounts for 2009 I can finally look back at the year with some objectivity. My lack of posts here over the past 12 months may have given away some essence of the unhappy state of affairs I have had to endure since 1st January 2009, but now I can reveal exactly why. I've been self-employed in France since May 2006, so this Christmas period marks the end of my 3rd full year in business. The first half year was educational, the first full year it all seemed pretty straight forward, the second full year things started to wobble, and this year - it's been a nightmare. Why? Well, to cut a long story short, most of my wages have been going straight back out the door to the state, and so while I have earned a wage of similar quantity to the previous year - this years profit before tax (and there won't be any tax) accounts for 6.5% of turnover. So in other words, for every Euro I earned in 2009 - [...]
Fate, I thought, had played a hand in my future last weekend when thieves broke into our (rented) car and stole my suit jacket. As the only suit jacket I possessed this was surely divine providence - I was clearly destined never to work in an office again. Creativity, the written word, and my panache for story-telling were clearly my calling, it would be roll-neck sweaters from now on ... either that or someone didn't want me to listen to the Buena Vista Social Club CD that was secreted in the left pocket ever again. [This event taking place only days after my employer had announced that they wouldn't be renewing my contract.*] The crime scene was the car-park of the beautiful Chapel St Sebastien on the outskirts of one of Alsace's most charming vineyard towns: Dambach-la-ville. There we had parked our Auto-trement Smart car for a mere 90 minutes while we hiked up to enjoy the views from the uniquely positioned ruins of Château Bernstein (the tower of which you can still climb up to enjoy spectacular views), [...]
Friends, it humbles me to reveal that my talents with the pen have finally been recognised. Winning is a rare experience and not since the Colgate toothpaste colouring competition in 1978 can I say I have actually won anything on individual merit. (Those rowing trophies usually required at least four other people) Je suis content. I am of course talking about the English Speaking Community's recent Limerick competition. Here's an extract from this month's ESC newsletter: The response was extraordinary! There were 18 entries and they displayed a lot of originality. However I had to be quite objective and scientific in my assessment. First, limericks have a syllable-rhythm. Applying this I went through each entry line by line, marking each with a cross or tick. This eliminated those with more crosses than ticks. Next, was the novelty and originality element in each entry. This of course is a personal choice which is much harder than ticks and crosses! After much deliberation, I was left with about six entries and from these I chose the three best ones. Your President [...]
Can anyone shed any light on the ream of protest banners appearing in Robertsau? Judging by the content of said banners it appears that the city council is planning to create a new municipal 'quartier' - and not everyone is thrilled with the idea?
Quand on veut écrire quelque chose en français c'est bien plus facile si on utilise une clavier française, but if you zqnt to zrite so,ething in English on sqid keyboqrd; the chqnces qre it zill come out qs co,plete gobbldigook. This is because the letters and symbols on a French keyboard are located in entirely different places to where you normally expect to find them on an English keyboard. the a is where the q should be the z is where the w should be there is a , where you'd normally expect to find an m and you have to hit shift in order to get any numbers - as the entire top line is dedicated to peculiar characters: &é"'(-è_çà No surprise then that it tqkes a bit of getting used to!
When we made the move to France, way back in 2005/06, the exchange rate, pounds to Euros was such that we could walk the streets of Strasbourg with a smug grin our faces. After all at 1.48 Euro to the pound - who wouldn't have? Every penny we shipped across the channel enabled us to finance a lifestyle that was, for all intents and purposes, a good one and a half times better than in England. How times change. While it was easy to predict the downfall of the UK's house of (credit) cards, the plummet in the value of Sterling came as a nasty shock, to us and most other expat Brits living in the Eurozone. Indeed it has meant that many have had to throw in the towel and move back to Blighty. But hopes of a recovery look baseless as the UK government lurches from one disaster to the next, one moment promising reforms, the next cuddling up to the bankers that helped them to cause the chaos in the first place. The pound, for the [...]
The current slump in performance by France’s national football team, ‘les bleus’, can be traced back to the end of the last World Cup. The beginning of their woes, like an omen, was signalled by the departure of one of the country’s greatest ever sporting heroes: Zinedine Zidane. It wasn’t just the fact of his departure from the spotlight that signalled the end of the good times, rather, it was the way that he did it. His now famous ‘coup de tete’ into the chest of Italy’s provocative Materazzi signalled the end of his career, the end of the World Cup 2006 and the end of the glory days of French football in one fail swoop. An event that has left many a Frenchman beating their own chest in despair ever since. No-one would have predicted then that two years down the line France would be bundled out of Euro 2008 with a goal difference of minus five at the pool stages, nor that in qualifying for the World Cup Finals 2010, they would struggle to find form against [...]
Ha - made you look! Not that kind of swinger! Tch, you should be ashamed of yourselves! No, I mean swinging in the musical bebop-zabba-dabba-da-da-do sense of the word. I mean jazz, man, oh yeah. Ptah, ptah, ptah. You don't have to be a turtle necked cool cat to appreciate the odd bit of swinging live jazz music, nor, thankfully, particularly rich. Certainly, it will only cost you the price of drink (even non-alcoholic if you're boring/cheap/tee-total). You'll already know what I'm talking about if you've stumbled into l'Artichaut on Grande Rue of a Thursday night sometime in the past year or so. For there in the cellar in amongst the tightly packed bodies you will have discovered purveyors of some of the finest jazz music that the world can offer. The title of the show is 'It's beef' (lord only knows why, some sort of French jazz in-joke perhaps?) and it 'goes down' more or less every other Thursday under the very talented eye of Rick Hannah. Monsieur Hannah, as you've probably guessed, isn't remotely French, but is [...]
It's national poetry day in the UK and the English Speaking Community of Alsace are running a Limerick competition (with an Alsatian angle) to mark the ocassion. I thought I'd shar my entries with you: There was a young chap, rather posh, Who was asked if he'd like to play squash, at la terrasse des halles, with Sarkozy and pals, just provided he first had a wash. There was a young girl from Rosheim, who was arrested for committing a crime, for in this location, so very Alsatian, you can't walk and chew gum at the same time. (er... not true) There was a wee lad from Colmar, who like to play blues on his guitar, But passers-by wouldn't throw money, rather - jarrets de porc, choucroute and honey, which is why he now lives in Myanmar. There was a young chap from Alsace, who had an embarrassing problem with gas, he blamed all the cheese, and plums from the trees, and even Choucroute Royal - oh alas.
There's a lot of brouhaha going on in Strasbourg about Johnny Hallyday's concert at the Zenith last night, and fair enough, as it's supposed to be his last tour (yeah right). However another artist named Jonny is also hitting the headlines, and one that, personally, I am more inclined to go and see perform. Jonny Wilkinson, the star of English rugby who, as I predicted well over a year ago, made the move to Toulon from Newcastle earlier this year to revive his flagging career. However his success in France since the start of the season has been largely ignored by the British rugby-going public mainly because the LNR (Ligue Nationale de Rugby) gets precisely zero coverage in the UK. I am sure Monsieur Wilkinson is not particularly bothered about this - as the British press have not exactly been positive about his chances of return to form. Anyway, for all you English rugby fans out there, I have decided to create a Jonny-Wilk-o-meter (see sidebar >>) to help you track his performance week to week in the 2009/2010 [...]